I love when three powerful things happen all at once, showing a sign that we are shifting. My mother always shared with me “the one constant in life is change.” Yet, sometimes it is hard for us to see or feel the change. The landscape of maternity care in my state of NJ and in the U.S in general has been far from what I hoped for. A day that can transform women, as Deepak Chopra said:
“Labor is an opportunity for women to learn about themselves and discover the strength and wisdom inherent in their bodies.”
Yet sadly a day that can be ecstatic, powerful, blissful or orgasmic is turning traumatic for far too many women.
As I drove into NYC to attend the UN meeting on Respectful Care I listened in to the press conference for the release of the Listening to Mother’s III Survey.
It was sad to hear the data, but not surprising. The last few years I have seen both women and providers so filled with fear of childbirth that they are using technology as false safety nets, not wanting to acknowledge all the risks we are putting our Mothers and Babies thru and the poor outcomes we have for a country that spends more on maternity care than any other country in the world. “The United States spends $98 billion annually on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth, but the US maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years. The U.S. ranks 50th in the world for maternal mortality, meaning 49 countries were better at keeping new mothers alive.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/24/maternal-mortality-rate-infographic_n_1827427.html
For all our interest in eating healthy and organic, many women turn their bodies and their babies over to medicine and allow many drugs and procedures to be given to them, some that we know are harmful or ineffective and many that we don’t know the short or long term consequence for MotherBaby What happens when we disturb a healthy process and replace our natural hormones with drugs and surgery at alarming rates? We are only beginning to ask these questions.
Here is what I heard on the press conference of what women shared about their birth experiences that rang in my ears as I walked into the Respectful Care meeting:
- Few women used simple, low-risk, drug-free measures to ease labor pain, like taking hot showers or baths. Women who had taken childbirth education classes were more likely to try such measures.
- Many women report experiencing pressure from a care provider to have a cesarean, labor induction, or an epidural.
- Many women reported that they held back from asking questions because they were concerned about being perceived as difficult, they wanted maternity care that differed from what their health care provider wanted, or their provider seemed rushed.
- Most women who had an episiotomy, an incision in the skin around the vagina made during delivery, were not included in the decision to undergo the procedure.
There were some good findings: Women’s readiness for pregnancy appears to be improving. Hospital support for exclusive breastfeeding is improving, although women’s intentions to and experiences with exclusive breastfeeding appear to be declining.
The room was full, I quickly found a seat up front and just settled in as the presenters began to speak about Disrespect and Abuse, D & A and defined Respectful Care through the White Ribbon Alliances Universal Rights of the Childbearing Woman http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org/WRA/assets/File/Final_RMC_Charter.pdf
I wanted to call out and say we need to frame the LTM III survey results within this same human rights framework. How have we silenced American women so that we accept institutional abuse and disrespect? Thinking back to the survey, we cut women’s vaginas without their permission and this is acceptable? If a woman were cut on the street she would know it’s abuse, but in a hospital it’s allowed?
It’s your body and your baby, you should be able to ask questions, to be respected, treated with dignity and fully involved in collaborative decision-making. In addition, the proportion of women with a prior cesarean who reported a lack of access to VBAC grew to 56% in the current survey from 42% a decade earlier. This is putting women at three times greater risk of dying in childbirth with major abdominal surgery. Yet, many women report experiencing pressure from a care provider to have a cesarean, labor induction, or an epidural. Many women reported that they held back from asking questions because they were concerned about being perceived as difficult. Would you buy a computer, cell phone, car from someone who is pressuring you and that you don’t feel comfortable asking question?
Yet, we trust our health and well-being to a maternity care system that is clearly broken giving us care that is not supported by the best research and women are made to feel as they are the ones that can’t speak up?
It’s time we speak out about abuse, speak out to have access to more effective, low cost comfort measures that are not available to many women such as tubs, balls, doulas that we know make a difference!
This is a human rights issue!
I am getting ready to fly to Malaysia to speak on the Respectful Care Panel at www.womendeliver.org with over 5000 global leaders and change makers coming together.
“Women Deliver 2013 will serve as a global platform for ensuring that the health and rights of girls and women remain top priorities now, and for decades to come.”
I will be sharing about the International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative www.imbci.org that offers quality evidenced based care, within a human rights framework and a caring heart. Honoring each woman’s right to choose where, how and with whom to safely give birth.
Please join me in one of these ways:
- Liking this post and sharing it with your friends.
- Share your birth story with us
- Were you offered access to the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices that provide the safest birth we know based on the research? Share what you wished you had know or received.
- Visit http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org/index.cfm/the-issues/respectful-maternity-care/ and share their video Break the Silence.
- Support the US Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative www.motherfriendly.org and the global version the International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative www.imbci.org.
- Globally next week is World Respected Childbirth Week, http://www.smar.info in many countries there are events, education, films, discussion and a look at birth as a human rights issue. If there is an event in your community join it, if not, consider creating one.
We have the information and the knowledge to make a change, now we need you to Stand up and Deliver, Don’t take it lying down!